- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 31, 2004

As John Kerry sinks in the polls, his campaign has trotted out John Edwards to attack President Bush’s foreign-policy record, starting with Iran. In an interview with The Washington Post, Mr. Edwards (after rightly stating that it would be unacceptable for Iran to be permitted to obtain nuclear weapons) accused the Bush administration of abdicating responsibility for dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat to the Europeans.

But based on the relatively minimal amount of information made available thus far, it’s difficult to see how the Kerry-Edwards approach would substantively differ from the failed effort made by the EU 3 — Britain, France and Germany — over the past year to persuade Iran to cooperate with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in shutting down its nuclear weapons programs.

According to Mr. Edwards, the solution entails offering Tehran a “grand bargain” in which sanctions against Iran would be lifted and it would be allowed to keep its nuclear power plants. In exchange for these concessions, Iran would give up the right to keep nuclear fuel that could be used to produce weapons. The genius of this proposal, according to Mr. Edwards, is that if Iran rejects it, the whole world will realize that Iran is acting in bad faith. Were this to become clear, “then we know that our European friends will stand with us,” he maintains.

The premise is absurd. No serious observer would claim that Iran is doing anything but acting in bad faith. Last year, the IAEA issued a report showing that Iran has been deceiving the world about its nuclear weapons programs since the mid-1980s. For the past 14 months, the Europeans, working together with the IAEA, have tried to persuade Iran to change its ways, only to have the door slammed in their face every time. In July, Iran brazenly told the EU 3 that it could enrich enough uranium for a bomb in one year, according to Undersecretary of State John Bolton.

Mr. Kerry has repeatedly and falsely tried to depict Mr. Bush — not the mullahs in Tehran — as the main obstacle to improved relations between Washington and Tehran. In a December speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, Mr. Kerry said it is “incomprehensible and unacceptable that this administration refuses to broker an arrangement with Iran.” He has also touted the failed EU 3 initiative as superior to Mr. Bush’s diplomatic approach.

If Messrs. Kerry and Edwards have a substantively better way to deal with Tehran, they should come forward with some serious proposals. Thus far, their rhetoric, unaccompanied by substance, is an embarrassment.

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